DigitalOcean Review

This article is a detailed review of DigitalOcean cloud hosting. We will tell you the pros and cons of this VPS cloud hosting provider. For those who have never heard of DigitalOcean before, it is a relatively new entrant into the world of VPS cloud hosting. DigitalOcean has grown tremendously since its inception about 5 years ago. It has created millions of VPS cloud servers for a huge number of users.

You can continue to read this review below or jump to a section that interests you most:

Introduction

Features

  • High performance SSD hard drives
  • KVM virtualization technology, guaranteed system resources
  • Server network speed at 1Gbps
  • Dedicated IPv4 and IPv6 addresses
  • Private networking available
  • Easy-to-use control panel, almost foolproof
  • Server snapshots and automatic backup options
  • Highly scalable, resizing servers with a few clicks
  • Available DNS management
  • RESTful API extension
  • One-Click Installs of WordPress, LAMP, and RoR
  • Two-factor authentication security
  • HTML5 enabled full console access via VNC
  • 5 data centers, NYC(NY1 & NY2), San Francisco, Singapore and Amsterdam
  • A large collection of helpful tutorials and an active community
  • 24/7 ticket support, an IRC channel, and a forum
  • 99.99% Uptime SLA
  • Pay-As-You-Grow, per hour billing, no contract
  • Credit cards and PayPal accepted as payment methods

Pricing

All features above are available for a very low monthly price. For just $5 a month with no contract, You can get a KVM-based VPS with 1GB of RAM, 25GB of super speedy SSD, and 1TB of monthly transfer. This is the least expensive plan. You can also choose a plan with more system resources. Servers can be easily scaled up or down at any time and that can be achieved with just a few clicks on the control panel.

Pricing

Control Panel

The sign-up process for a new account is extremely simple. An email address and a new account password are required to get started. Then you can select a payment method that you prefer. Major credit cards and PayPal are accepted. No contract is required. You are billed by the hour and pay as you “grow”. By the way, you can get a $10 hosting credit if you use this DigitalOcean Promo Code. That’s roughly equivalent to hosting on a 512MB VPS for two months.

Unlike many other VPS providers, DigitalOcean’s custom control panel is designed with simplicity in mind. To get your first VPS created, all you need to do is select the size of your VPS, the data center location, and the Linux distro of your choice. Your VPS will be created after the “Create Droplet” button is clicked. It usually takes less than a minute, as advertised, for a small-sized VPS droplet to become ready to use.

Control Panel

Linux Distros

Many Linux distros are provided in the control panel. 32-bit and 64-bit versions of CentOS, Ubuntu, Debian, Fedora, CoreOS, and Arch Linux are available. The Ubuntu Desktop ( Xfce ) and Fedora Desktop are also in the selection list.

DigitalOcean doesn’t offer Windows servers. If you need to run windows applications on your server, you should probably look somewhere else.

One-Click Installs

The officially maintained “one-click installs” are also available. LAMP, WordPress, Ruby on Rails, Docker, and Redmine can be set up properly without much effort. One-click Installs are a convenient solution for users who are new to unmanaged Linux hosting. Bloggers and publishers who need nothing more than a few WordPress sites will save a lot of time with one-click Installs as well.

Data Centers

DigialOcean currently has 4 data center locations. These data centers are located in New York, San Francisco, and Amsterdam Netherlands. They are operated by Equinix, Telx, and TelecityGroup. DigitalOcean’s NY2 data center is in Google’s New York building at 111 8th Avenue.

Private Networking

Private networking is available at some facilities. DigitalOcean is investing heavily in its infrastructure. Its Singapore data center was launched last year. Future expansions will possibly include a Texas location as well as one in South America or India.

IPv6 Availability

We previously wrote in this review:

IPv6 is not available as of this writing, but it has been indicated that this feature will be available soon.

Here is an update: IPv6 is now available at some data center locations.

Scalability

If you choose to create a larger VPS, more system resources will be allocated to you. If you already have a VPS and just want to upgrade (or downgrade) the RAM and the number of CPU cores, just do a “Fast-Resize” on your VPS. That can be done on the control panel. Support tickets are not necessary at all and the system downtime required for that change is minimal.

If you need to do some pre-production testing for a new website or application, you can spin up a small VPS. The cost to you will be less than a few cents per hour.

Data Backup

DigitalOcean provides its users with two types of mechanism for data backup and recovery. Snapshots of your DigitalOcean instance can be manually taken at any point in time. Your VPS will be offline for a minute or two. Automatic backups are done periodically and you don’t need to bring your servers down.

The costs of snapshots and backups are very reasonable. Automatic backups for the least expensive configuration cost just a dollar per month.

Customer Support

DigitalOcean’s customer support is superb. Tickets are usually answered in a matter of minutes. The support team is friendly and eager to help. An IRC channel is officially maintained for users who are interested in participating in real time chat. There is a network status website thoughtfully hosted on a separate domain.

Document Library

DigitalOcean maintains a large number of tutorials on its website. Basic steps, such as creating your VPS droplets, setting up IP tables, installing MySQL, PHP, Perl, Python, RoR, and Apache, or even Nginx, are very well documented. Linux first-timers can just rely on those step-by-step guides to get a website or an application up and running easily. The tutorials are up-to-date and easy to follow.

User Community

DigitalOcean has an official blog and blog comments are allowed. Readers can interact with the authors and the huge DigitalOcean community if they have questions. There is a forum where users can exchange ideas as well.

It should be mentioned that DigitalOcean is very active on User Voice, a customer feedback system.

Performance Review

We have done an in-depth performance test of DigitalOcean VPS. We tested the performance of 512MB, 1GB, and 2GB VPS droplets with UnixBench. You will find our actual test results below.

Unlike the usually oversold OpenVZ solutions, DigitalOcean’s KVM-based virtualization guarantees the allocated CPU and RAM resources.

Disk I/O speed testing is a part of this review as they play an important role in overall performance of a server. The lightening fast SSD disks are a big help in improving overall performance, as already evident during the creation process of a fresh VPS.

DigitalOcean UnixBench Scores

UnixBench is a useful and popular benchmarking tool for servers. The final result, “System Benchmarks Index Score”, is an indicator of overall performance of a server. Higher scores are better.

Step 1:

A freshly created Linux server or VPS does not come with the required packages to do compilation, so let’s install them first. Also, we need to do “updates” to ensure that everything required for tool installation is in place.

On CentOS / Fedora:

# yum update

# yum groupinstall “Development Tools”

# # yum install libX11-devel mesa-libGL-devel perl-Time-HiRes

On Ubuntu / Debian:

# apt-get update

# apt-get install libx11-dev libgl1-mesa-dev libxext-dev perl perl-modules make

Step 2:

Download UnixBench from Google Code and start benchmarking a server or a VPS with the commands below. This is going to take somewhere between 10 to 30 minutes.

# tar xvf unixbench-5.1.3.tgz

# cd unixbench-5.1.3

# ./Run

We got the following performance scores:

UnixBench Testing Results

On our 1GB VPS:

System Benchmarks Index Score: 1165.4

On our smallest 512MB VPS:

System Benchmarks Index Score 910.1

On our largest 2GB VPS:

System Benchmarks Index Score 1603.4

DigitalOcean SSD Speed Tests

Here is how we benchmark Linux server disk I/O speeds. We use the following linux command:

# dd if=/dev/zero of=/tmp/output bs=1M count=1k; rm -f /tmp/output

On the smallest DigitalOcean VPS, we got an average speed of around 350MB/s which is extremely fast. The following is a sample of our test results.

1024+0 records in

1024+0 records out

1073741824 bytes (1.1 GB) copied, 3.07035 s, 350 MB/s

The I/O speeds on that DigitalOcean VPS were pretty impressive. We have also tested the Disk I/O speeds of a typical mechanical hard drive (on a Linode VPS before the VPS provider switched to SSD) with the exact same method and we got 90-110MB/s. DigitalOcean’s SSD disks are several times faster than the spinning hard drives that most hosting providers still use today. Please read one of our articles for more information on DigitalOcean vs Linode.

The test scores published in this review are our first hand experience on NY1 droplets. Feel free to compare these numbers with your existing VPS or cloud hosting providers.

DigitalOcean Website Speed Tests

We used Pingdom to do a speed test of a website hosted on a 512MB VPS droplet in DigitalOcean’s New York datacenter. According to Pingdom’s report, the test website is faster than 99% of all websites tested by Pingdom.

DigitalOcean Benchmarks - Website Speed Testing

The speed test was initiated from Pingdom’s New York City location, which is quite close to where the test website is hosted. Tests initiated from Pingdom’s other geographic locations also showed excellent results. The same test website is faster than 94% and 88% of all tested websites from Pingdom’s Dallas Texas and Amsterdam locations, respectively. The performance DigitalOcean delivers definitely exceeds our expectation.

DigitalOcean vs. Linode

DigitalOcean beats most cheap VPS competitors hands down with its superior combination of SSD, KVM and a long list of other features. Its performance is great. We would say its reliability has been superb so far. However, it is not just competing in the low-end server market. In fact, the comparison chart on its official website only includes the most reputable competitors such as Linode, Amazon, and Rackspace.

We previously wrote the following 2 paragraphs in this review before Linode upgraded its price plans:

For $20 a month, DigitalOcean offers twice the RAM, much faster disks, much more monthly transfer, and much cheaper extra transfer than Linode, although Linode’s processors are slightly more powerful. DigitalOcean is also leading Linode in payment and billing. DigitalOcean charges users by the hour and accepts PayPal as a payment method.

If you do a lot of encoding on a daily basis, you should probably choose Linode for more raw CPU power. Otherwise, DigitalOcean is a better choice. For those who prefer fast disk I/O performance and larger size of memory, choosing DigitalOcean as oppose to Linode is a no-brainer. We have conducted disk I/O performance comparison tests and the results indicated that DigitalOcean’s solid state drives are at least 3 times faster than the competitor’s spinning drives.

Well, here is an update: Both DigitalOcean and Linode now offer similarly priced SSD hosting plans. The competition has brought Linode’s prices down. However, DigitalOcean still offers much cheaper extra transfer and provides a lot of convenient features that Linode doesn’t. Additionally, DigitalOcean’s least expensive plan is just $5 a month while Linode doesn’t have a similar offer. The least expensive plan from Linode is $10 per month. DigitalOcean accepts PayPal and major credit cards as payment methods. Linode does not accept PayPal payments at all as of this writing.

Click here to find out more on DigitalOcean vs. Linode.

Conclusion

We like what DigitalOcean VPS cloud has to offer at a price that can’t be beat: KVM, high performance SSD, tier-1 bandwidth, a simple yet powerful control panel with a long list of features, excellent scalability, and superb support. We are now using DigitalOcean for most of our web development projects and we have recommended it to many of our clients. DigitalOcean is not just a budget VPS provider. It offers a great value for money.

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Updated: October 19, 2018